Concussions and Brain Health

Concussions have been in the medical lexicon for thousands of years, but their mechanisms of action and long-term health effects are still poorly understood. There is currently no evidence-based treatment for concussions other than rest and their medical management is largely guided by individual expert opinion, which varies considerably. But an emerging body of systematic research, bolstered by increasingly vocal testimony from athletes and other groups at high risk for concussions, is starting to paint a clearer picture of how these injuries work and their potentially serious, lasting consequences.

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Gene Drives

For many years now, scientists have been able to alter genes inside microbial, plant, and animal cells to change organisms’ traits, creating, for example, plants that produce their own protective insecticides and fish that grow to maturity almost twice as fast as normal. But while it has become practically routine for scientists to genetically alter individual organisms, a new set of advances promises something much more ambitious: the ability to propagate new genetic traits into entire populations over just a few generations. 

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Gravitational Waves

In February 2016, astronomers announced the first-ever direct detection of gravitational waves, a phenomenon originally predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago in his theory of general relativity and sought after by physicists and astronomers for nearly 50 years. The discovery not only confirmed a prediction of general relativity but also opened an entirely new window to understanding the universe: the ability to explore the cosmos relying not just on light, but on gravity itself. 

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physical scienceBecky Hazen
Lead in U.S. Drinking Water

Drinking water is tightly regulated in the United States and, for the most part, is remarkably safe. Recent contamination episodes in Flint, Michigan, and elsewhere, however, have highlighted the fragility of this public health success story and the serious health risks lead poses in significant portions of the U.S. drinking water supply. Exposure to lead, even at low levels, has adverse health effects for people – especially children, pregnant women, and their developing fetuses. While these risks are widely known, lead continues to pervade the tap water of many American communities. 

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environment, healthBecky Hazen
Geoengineering

The 2017 movie “Geostorm” tells a tale of technology misused as humankind makes a futile effort to control the changing climate. The movie is fiction, but talk of using “geoengineering” to reduce the risks of climate change is real—and could grow in volume as climate extremes become increasingly disruptive. A set of scientific papers released in November 2017 offered some of the most sophisticated estimates yet of how injections of aerosolized sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere might mitigate some consequences of climate change, while another paper published a few weeks later pointed to potentially problematic weather disruptions that could occur under certain geoengineering scenarios. 

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